by Larry Smith
“(Trial by jury) is the most transcendent privilege which any subject can enjoy, or wish for - that he cannot be affected either in his property, his liberty, or his person, but by the unanimous consent of twelve of his neighbors and equals." -- Sir William Blackstone
Does it matter whether Bahamian trials proceed with nine- or 12-person juries?
Some research says larger juries are indeed more representative. But in a small place like this, where there are inordinate delays in jury selection in an already dysfunctional court system, cutting the number of jurors makes sense.
The government recently introduced a measure to do just that - going from 12 to nine jurors in non-capital cases, reducing the number of peremptory challenges by lawyers to seven, and requiring a majority vote of six of the nine jurors to decide non-capital cases.
This amendment to the Juries Act is set for final debate in the House today. But the opposition is, of course, opposed. They say the measure is "useless" and argue that the government is "tinkering with a fundamental right". According to Fred Mitchell (who was a cabinet minister just a few months ago), the government should "simply cause speedy trials to take place."